10th Aug. Along with Sam and my brother, I did a reccy of a walk from Walltown, near Greenhead, in February. The actual RSPB walk was to take place in August, which at the time seemed such a long time away. The day arrived today. The outward journey to the venue included sightings of Common Buzzard and Weasel along by the Military Road. The song of Willow Warbler greeted us on arrival.
The Walltown Quarry car park lies below Walltown Crags alongside Hadrian’s Wall and is an area of vastly changing moods. February had been cold, misty and damp. Today was a mix of hot sunshine and at times ominous storm cloud. We began the day with a quick mention of some interesting facts about the old quarry which the Great Whinsill Ridge cuts through, and which holds much botanical interest and fossils many millions of years in age. I noted that the last walk I had lead was at Spindlestone where the Heugh also lies on the Great Whinsill Ridge. Much work has been put into this area by the National Trust and by volunteers so perhaps we ought not to grumble about the £4 car-park charge. I do think it a bit steep though considering that it is £4 no matter how short a time you stay there!
Walltown Crags from Walltown Quarry
A Sparrowhawk was seen as we began the walk and numbers of Meadow Pipit flew nearby as we headed towards Thirwall Castle and Tipalt Burn. The walk through the woodland at Tipalt Burn was almost unrecognisable to what I had found in February. Woodland birding is not at its best in August, but we found a pair of Dipper, Grey Wagtails and Pied Wagtail on the burn and other birds included Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Wren, Robin, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Linnet and Lesser Redpoll. When we stopped for lunch the sun shone and soon had us feeling hot. One of the party ensured his head was well protected at which point the dark cloud came over from the west and the air chilled. The calls of Curlew were heard and Lesser Black Backed Gull was seen.
As we prepared to continue our walk over the open farmland everyone got there eye on a very large brown bull. Happily to was concentrating on grazing and didn’t have anytime to take an interest in bird watchers. I had my plans ready though and suggested that it was definitely ladies first! The second Sparrowhawk of the day was seen as we crossed the bridge. The walk was a circular walk and as we crossed the burn onto more farmland we found numbers of Pied Wagtails, many of them juvenile birds, as we also watched the low flying Swallows and House Martins. White species of butterfly had been with us all of the time and we also saw Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Ringlet and Meadow Brown Butterflies. Passing the farm, birds seen included more Pied Wagtails and Goldfinch.
Once back at Walltown Quarry we inspected the fossil area, soon finding samples of the small fossils. We were able to add three species of tit and a couple of Goldcrest to out list before finding Mallard and Moorhen on one of the pools in the quarry. It being an RSPB walk the day was nicely ended by a visit to the café in the quarry where we watched young Swallows in their nest.
Rather like RSPB Group members, these guys are ready for their tea!